State of the Panhandle: 2016 In Review
2016 marks the first year for Panhandle Precision. It’s been an interesting ride so far.
Happy New Year’s! I hope all is well with you and those you care about. Thank you to all our followers, viewers, and subscribers. I appreciate you spending your valuable time with me and the kids. Panhandle Precision is all about sharing our experiences with folks who are interested in hunting, long range shooting, and precision rifles. Without your support, I might as well turn the computer off and go warm up a rifle barrel!
This short article will summarize what we did in 2016 and set forth some goals for 2017. Think of it as one of those Christmas cards from a distant relative, providing the reader with a description of what happened since the last time you heard from them.
To start it off, here is our second annual Long Range Shooting: Hits, Misses, & Trace video. This video is a compilation of long range practice and hunting shots taken this year. If you like bullet trace, this video is for you!
As I type this, remnants of last year’s season are still scattered about: Gear that needs to be put away, rifles and optics to be cleaned, and a whitetail buck skull that waiting to be thawed and boiled.
I shot that young 4×4 buck on November 29. One month later, the temperature hasn’t risen above freezing for more than a few hours. It’s wintertime in the panhandle of Idaho. Spring bear season is a long five months off, and no matter what I tell myself, I’m just not that interested in chasing coyotes in deep, cold snow.
Other than cleaning and drying my wall tent and gear from our annual November deer camp, I tend to put off securing my hunting kit until long after seasons have closed. I dread the finality of it. Having said that, I’m ready to put 2016 behind me and get ready for 2017.
2016 was full of highs and lows from a hunting standpoint. It was one of the worst overall years I’ve seen for bear hunting.
It seems that liberal seasons, a failed huckleberry crop in 2015, and two-tag units are taking their toll on the bear populations where I hunt the most. Mature boars, as well as sows with cubs were few and far between. Jake filled his tag in September on a nice boar. I’ll be changing up some techniques for 2017, and looking for less crowded areas.
Jake and I had a blast in the ground squirrel colonies for the better part of three months. We shot so many of them, I got tired of it. One of the highlights was a June snowstorm that dumped three inches of snow on us at 6000 feet elevation, and dropped the temperature into the 30’s overnight. That memory will stick for a long time!
The kids and I managed to fill the freezer with deer meat this year. Starting with a depredation hunt in late August and ending with extra anterless tags in November, we killed five whitetail does. All five of those deer were shot with Berger 130 AR Hybrids from the 260 Terminator and a 260 Remington. That bullet has performed well for us, across a wide velocity range. For my final review on it, including detailed load information, click HERE.
Jessica and I made our third annual trip to Wyoming this year. We saw a lot of antelope, but they were spookier than last year. We witnessed the impressive speed of pronghorns at full throttle on several occasions. I managed to tag a buck at 830 yards. We will be returning in 2017.
October was one of the wettest months I can remember. I think there were only three days when it didn’t rain!
I haven’t elk hunted in several years, but I managed to go for a couple long hikes with my buddy Brian. I’ll need to significantly lighten my load if I want to return to the elk woods. Another good friend of mine, Ross, killed a bull close to the end of season. I watched that bull through my spotting scope at last light the evening before, thinking he will never get to it in time. I shouldn’t have doubted him.
Ross is far and away the deadliest elk hunter I’ve ever known. He called the next afternoon, inviting me on the pack. Five of us climbed up to the bull the next morning. My Fitbit said we ascended 274 floors to that meatpole and covered almost 11 miles getting there and back. Brian donated a chunk of his quarter for me to carry down. That was plenty!
November is usually my favorite month of the year. I like chasing whitetails during the rut, spending three weeks living out of a wall tent.
This year, I spent the best days of the pre-rut in Dallas, TX, on a business trip with my wife. I dearly love to spend time with her, but that was tough! When I returned, I found my area overrun with a group of hunters from out of state. I won’t name the state, but it’s west of Idaho. I listened to one of the gents wax on about their hunting grounds being crowded with other hunters, right after Jess and I watched him walk up on us while we were on stand at the end of a skid trail. He also told us about the lack of quality bucks in his area. That camp had four bucks hanging in a tree that had barely celebrated their second birthdays! Think about it.
To be fair, this has been going on for a couple years, gradually whittling down the potential for four and five-year-old bucks. I’ve never had a good whitetail area last longer than six years. Anyway, we passed on a few bucks, but had little faith in an old warrior buck showing up. I gave in two days before the end of season and shot a small 4×4. We will be exploring new areas for 2017.
Our two main projects in 2016 were testing the 260 Terminator cartridge and stretching out my new 300 Winchester Magnum. Most of the shots taken in the above video were with these two rifles.
I’m amazed by the amount of interest in the 260 Terminator. If you missed the initial review, check it out HERE. I know a follow-up is overdue, but I was waiting for the barrel to be shot out first. It’s currently at 1293 rounds down the tube. That round count is about evenly split between Berger 140 VLDHs and Berger 130 AR Hybrids. The kids and I used both bullets from the 260T to kill deer this year. It’s a wicked deer hunting cartridge. I might spin up a carrying-weight rifle chambered in it for 2017.
The 300 WM was pretty much my go-to long range rifle this year. Per my shot log book, we sent 525 Berger 210 grain VLDHs downrange in 2016. 380 of those shots were at targets between 600 and 2250 yards away. It did very well. If I read the wind accurately, first-round, cold-bore shots out to a mile were common. Jake used the 300 WM to tag an Idaho black bear at 785 yards, and I shot an antelope buck in Wyoming with it at 830 yards. Both kills with the 210 VLDH were decisive. I see no reason to change anything with that load for 2017. Other than being somewhat heavy to carry at 15 pounds, the 300 WM has been a pleasure to long range hunt with.
To start the new year, I’ll be finishing up my review of the Kestrel 5700 Sportsman, as well as a series of how-to videos on operating it.
I started 2016 with a review on the Kestrel 5700 Elite. A lot of readers wanted to know if the Sportsman would better suit their needs. If you’re one of them, I hope I can clear it up for you. They’re both excellent meters. I think the Sportsman will work just fine for long range hunting.
Also on deck is the Nightforce 3-10×42 SHV riflescope. This is my first look at the SHV line, but I have many years of experience with the NXS and ATACR models. Due to the timing of receiving the scope, I was only able to hunt with it for a couple weeks. I’ll try to get out for some coyote hunting at the end of January before forming thoughts for a review. It’s mounted on a lightweight 260 Remington, which seems like a good combination.
I decided I needed a carrying-weight hammer for 2017, so I’ll be shaking down a Sako A7 Roughtech chambered in 300 WM. This will be my first dip into the Sako/ Tikka pool, and my first factory rifle in a long time. Stay tuned.
Kathy and I will be attending the 2017 SHOT Show.
This will be our third trip to Vegas for the show. We’ll also be celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary while we’re there. I may be biased, but I have the best wife in the world! For the record, she is the only financial sponsor of Panhandle Precision, and the only reason I’m able to pursue this little venture. She’s also an excellent editor, and has given me valuable insight for some of the articles on the website.
Look for a summary review of gadgets and technology at this year’s show. I’ll be posting frequent updates from the show on our Instagram and Facebook pages as well. If there’s anything you want me to check out, leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Panhandle Precision will continue to operate for the promotion of hunting, long range shooting, and precision rifles. I’ll also do my best to keep bringing you the best gear reviews I can.
I’m not trying to get rich and famous here. I recently read a quote that said: There is always someone doing it better than you, so be humble before you get humbled. I agree. I’m humbled by some of the emails and messages I’ve received from you guys. I genuinely love being in the woods, shooting, and passing that on to my kids. I hope that shows in what I share with you.
Some of my better work comes from questions I get from readers. If you have ideas for future articles, or just want to ask a question, feel free to send me an email. I’m also considering inviting guest authors to provide articles or reviews for the website. If you’re interested, drop me a line.